Metrobus management have blamed the strike on a few ex-employees who they say “wish to have their jobs back through the perpetuation of violence and in blatant disregard of the interest of the masses of citizens who depend on Metrobus for transportation”.
Witsies use various modes of transport to travel to and from campus everyday. Some take 15 minute walks, while others have to travel for up to two hours. Wits Vuvuzela went out to bus stops, popular taxi pick up points, pedestrian crossings and trains stations to find out how the commute is for students and staff.
A day in the life
Yusuf Bapeekee used to travel by motor bike when he lived in the West Rand near Kagiso. He recently moved to Mayfair and now walks daily to and from campus. [pullquote align=”right”]“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”[/pullquote]
“I never see anything out of the ordinary… just small school kids that walk free not scared. I see them and I feel free.”
Bapeekee said it took him “half hour tops” to make the commute. He said he left home at 7.15am. “I try to be early for my lectures”, he said as a smile grew across face.
“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”
Bapeekee said he enjoyed the walk. “It’s free to walk, plus it’s exercise.”
Asked about the crime associated with route around Enoch Sontonga Avenue, Bapeekee said:
“If I saw more students I’d feel even better.”
Walk on by
A short brisk walk is all it takes for Ntombi Mbatha, 1st year BHSc, to get to and from campus. She lives at a Southpoint building just two blocks away from campus.
Even though her journey is uncomplicated she nearly got hit by a taxi once. She said that experience has made her think more than twice before crossing the street now.
She is fascinated by the high school students she passes on her way because they remind her of her days as one of them.
Ntombi feels very safe walking in Braamfontein.
“I went downtown once and it was just such a mess, Braam is better,” she said.
Students aren’t the only ones who have to commute to and from Wits. Staff members also have their own transport missions.
Ngake Mukgowane is a Wits staff member who uses the train to commute.
He leaves his home in Dobsonville at 5.30am every morning and has to travel for about an hour and a half to reach Braamfontein station.
Mukgowane has been working at Wits for 18 years and has been a train commuter for most of those years.
He was in a rush to catch his 4pm train when Wits Vuvuzela reporters found him.
60 minute trip
John Malungani, 1st year BSc Com Sci,
has to commute for at least one hour a day to get to campus.
He says that he is more than willing to make the trip because of the good reputation that Wits has.
John lives in Tembisa. There is no taxi that comes straight from there to Wits, so he has to walk for another 15 minutes once he reaches Noord taxi rank.
He wishes he lived a little closer so that he could work and study till late on campus like other students.
“It’s hard travelling for two hours a day,” said Malungani.
The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (PRASA) recently unveiled a R500-million plan in an effort to boost public transport usage in Johannesburg. This is part of the R1-billion the company will inject into major stations in a bid to improve passenger numbers, PRASA CEO Lucky Montana said. The plans involves the development of its property around Braamfontein station and link it up with the Johannesburg in an investment that will cost about. The initiative is touted to increase rail passenger numbers.
But there are serious doubts whether renovating train stations will attract passengers to trains without a feeder network of buses and taxis.
The 2006 national household travel survey, undertaken by the national department of transport, found that 52% of Johannesburg residents had no access to train services in their residential areas, compared to 5% of residents who reported that there was a no taxi service near their homes.
Itumeleng Motaung, a young HR professional who works in Braamfontein and lives on the East Rand, said she preferred to commute by taxis because trains were unreliable.
“Taxis do delay (at times), but they are better than trains. Flexibility is important if you are a punctual person,” she said.
She expressed doubt that she would use trains even if there was a connection between Park station and Braamfontein because trains were more often full and unsafe.
When President Jacob Zuma took a train on Thursday—to travel with ordinary commuters between the three metros of Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg—he found that they were overloaded with passengers. Most of them reportedly complained about the lack of reliability and punctuality of trains when they travel to work in the mornings.
The problem is not confined to Johannesburg alone.
A recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report on the integration of Gauteng as a city region found that residents who live further than places of employment were spent more time than those who lived closer to them.